Thursday, 21 January 2016

Thatcher and Reagan - an example of hagiography

By the time of Ronald Reagan’s funeral on June 11th 2004, Margaret Thatcher’s health was already greatly in decline following a series of strokes.  She was also experiencing the onset of dementia, although this was not publicly known at that time.  In this context, her attendance at his funeral service speaks to her adoration of him well enough, though if we were left in any doubt, her nine minute eulogy, previously recorded and played on a screen during the service, served as a clear mark of her adoration for the deceased president.
It might seem churlish to deride a eulogy.  Of course one would expect – rightly – nothing but praise and affection to be heaped upon the deceased on such an occasion, but for many people, Thatcher’s words were a sharp reminder of the ‘special relationship’ between these two ‘great’ political leaders that  came to be a symbol of all that was wrong with western culture in the 1980s.
In her opening words, Thatcher described Reagan as a ‘great president, a great American, and a great man’ and she went on to spend the next nine minutes heaping praise upon praise on what she believed to be his prudence.
Thatcher said, ‘He had firm principles and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly. He acted upon them decisively.’  Her own capitalist politics appear enable her to only see the illusion of prosperity which many feel exemplifies Reagan’s political policies.
She made no mention of his supply-side economic policies that brought the lower classes in the USA to their knees during his presidency.  She made no mention of the Iran-Contra debacle – the selling of arms to a country upon whom an arms embargo had been established in 1979.  She made no mention of his cuts to federal funding programmes for education, made on the grounds that the state ‘should not subsidize intellectual curiosity’.  She made no mention of the fact that he doubled that national debt (not in itself a terrible thing if the money is helping everyone in society to live healthier, happier lives but in Reagan’s case this was not happening – the number of people below the poverty line in American during the 1980s soared.

Article on linguistics

Hamilton, American Caesars (London, 2010), 341-388
Graubard, The Presidents (London, 2005), 547-587
Gould, The Modern American Presidency (Kansas, 2003), 191-204

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